About otitis externa (EAR PAIN)

Otitis externa is a condition that causes inflammation (redness and swelling) of the external ear canal.

Otitis externa is often referred to as "swimmer's ear" because repeated exposure to water can make the ear canal more vulnerable to inflammation.

Symptoms of otitis externa include:

  • ear pain, which can be severe
  • itchiness in the ear canal
  • a discharge of liquid or pus from the ear
  • some degree of temporary hearing loss

What causes otitis externa?

Most cases of otitis externa are caused by a bacterial infection, although the condition can also be caused by:

  • irritation
  • fungal infections
  • allergies

There are a number of things that can make you more likely to develop otitis externa, including:

  • damaging the skin inside your ear
  • regularly getting water in your ear

Getting water in your ear is particularly significant, because this can cause you to scratch inside your ear, and the moisture also provides an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.

You should see doctor immediately if:

  • The symptoms do not improve within 3 days
  • Body temperature rises above 100.4 degrees as an accompanying fever could indicate a more serious infection
  • Ear infections are being experienced regularly, as they can eventually lead to hearing loss
  • The symptoms of an ear infection are present in a child younger than 6 months
  • There is a discharge of fluid, pus or bloody fluid from the ear
  • The pain becomes severe
  • Any other symptoms present themselves including vomiting, headaches, a stiff neck, drowsiness and a loss of balance